The word “passionate” came up repeatedly in tributes to John Jansen as he was bestowed the Order of Chilliwack, the City of Chilliwack’s highest honour.
The Order of Chilliwack was presented to Jansen in council chambers Jan. 19, along with a tribute video with clips from friends and former colleagues who offered hearty congratulations, glowing accolades, and appreciation for his tenacity, humour, and passion.
“That’s really nice,” Jansen said slightly overwhelmed after the presentation which he attended with his wife, Wilma. “Thank you so so much.”
Jansen said he viewed the development of Canada Education Park in particular as a gift to future generations.
“I just enjoyed it all so much,” Jansen said of his various roles, including being the first mayor of the amalgamated Chilliwack.
“I just want to relax now and retire,” Jansen said.
Jansen was recognized for serving Chilliwack for four decades and for being the driving force for major advancements in education, health care, and economic growth.
“John has spent years of his life making Chilliwack a better place to work and live, and we are lucky to have such a dedicated individual in our city,” said Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove during the presentation.
His leadership led to “transformative” community-building, and one person said he was “the man who quietly made it happen,” while most of Chilliwack “had no idea.”
“From Canada Education Park to the hospital, and many places in between, you can see the impact of John’s efforts to better our community,” Popove said.
He was described as one with the “vision, the drive and the contacts” to have made a lasting difference in helping Chilliwack thrive and prosper.
“From attracting new businesses to the city to his work on the purchase of more than 200 acres to create Canada Education Park after the closure of the Canadian Forces Base, John Jansen has helped provide countless local job opportunities and stimulated economic growth in Chilliwack,” Popove said. “For those reasons and many, many more we are honouring John with the Order of Chilliwack.”
Jansen’s family chose Chilliwack as their home when he was a child in 1953.
He grew up in Chilliwack choosing to become a chartered accountant, and entered public life, first as an “alderman,” and later as the third mayor of the amalgamated District of Chilliwack in 1984.
Jansen went on to be elected MLA and became a provincial cabinet member in the Social Credit government, as minister of international business and immigration, minister of finance, and minister of health.
He was in caucus when Fraser Valley College received university-college status, which was seen as a pivotal step in its journey to becoming University of the Fraser Valley.
It was much later as president of Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) that he gained traction to steer the purchase of a huge Canada Lands Corporation parcel of land, that led to the development of the Canada Education Park, one of Jansen’s crowning achievements.
As president of the Chilliwack Hospital Foundation, Jansen was instrumental in the expansion of local health services coming through with a $5-million campaign boost to complete Fraser Health Authority’s $35-million expansion of Chilliwack General Hospital.
Some of Jansen’s previous awards included the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International, a fellowship from the General Accountants Association of Canada, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UFV.
The Order of Chilliwack was established in 2001 and is an award granted by Chilliwack city council to deserving citizens or groups in the community to mark “outstanding achievements or long-term contributions” to the community of Chilliwack.
The five previous recipients of the Order of Chilliwack include the Honourable Steven Point and Dr. Gwen Point, Brian Minter, Fred Bryant, the Chilliwack Rotary Club, and Dorothy Kostrzewa.